Saturday, October 07, 2006

the make up game

Thursday night was the night we, Big Brother and his U8 team mates, made up a game that had been rained out a couple of weeks ago. There were a couple of other, older all girl teams also playing, though overall, it was a nice quiet night at the fields. Saturday mornings are a whole different story as the droves of people show up for the regular schedule games.

I thought I had a good line up going into the game, but they just didn't get into it at first. Add to that that the other team was a good bit more physical than my guys. They got several goals ahead of us out of nowhere in the first quarter, though we stopped them for the most part after that.

The following quarters we held our own. We kept the other kids from scoring, but we couldn't seem to get the ball into their goal more than a couple of times. We ended up losing the game, but I can't blame my team at all. A couple of the goals were most likely our own fault, due mostly to the confusion of that many little feet right in front of the goal, all trying like hell to be the one to put the ball where it needs to be.

This all comes back to an issue that I've faced before and possibly even mentioned in a post. Part of my coaching ideals involve teaching the kids to play the game right, to obey the rules. I'm not in any way suggesting the other team didn't play fair, but this does get at my issue because they were so much more physically aggressive than my guys. Some of my guys are younger, haven't played that much soccer, and several of them have just moved up from U6. Soccer as something more than just running and kicking is still pretty new to some of my team, and to run up against the team we faced had to have been a bit of a shock.

So, my dilemma, how do you get kids six to eight years old to play tough and aggressive and also make sure that they are playing by the rules? How do you teach them or let them learn that, if you are hurt, we will take care of you, but most of the time you aren't really hurt?

Playing with pain isn't always a bad thing. I've done it, and I will do it again. It's part of doing your best in sports sometimes. Playing with an injury is a whole other story, and I do not want my team to be so driven that they will make an injury worse in order to please me or their parents or anyone else by playing when they should be done for the day. I have no respect for the idea of playing through an injury. For the team's sake, it makes sense for the injured to step aside and let fresher legs take the field. It makes sense to limit the injury as much as possible so that you can heal quicker and rejoin your team as an able bodied member.

When you are a child, hurts are a big deal. I'm not a little kid, and most of the hurts I get are really no big deal. I've known real pain, and I know my body well enough that I know when I'm really hurt and when it's just going to be a nasty bruise later. I can't expect U8's to know that, and I don't want to introduce ideas that are unhealthy. They are kids before they are soccer players, and they need to know that we will take care of them, but they are also learning to deal with things by themselves, to accept life's/soccer's bumps and bruises.

We have a game Saturday and back to practice Tuesday. Based on the two games from this week, I'll decide how to approach practice. I've spent a lot of our time on dribbling and passing, but at this age, passing in a game situation is hard to remember. I know these kids have the hardest time trying to think to look up and find a team mate. Once they get the ball it's beeline for the goal.

For all the frustration of getting beaten up a little, I have to say that I watched one of the most dramatic games I've ever watched. There is of course a measure of heartbreak whenever your kids lose a game, but our kids played so hard. I tell them at every practice and game that all I expect is their best, and I know for certain that they gave their best. We got surprised by all the quick early goals, but once our guys settled down, they fought like hell. I am so proud of them. They didn't give up for one second, and that is one of the best lessons I think kids can take away from sports, to never give up.